"What can you say that would make me go out there..." Merlin broke off.
He didn't want to explain what had happened and some part of him felt ashamed. Not only one but two men had forced attentions on him that day. Certainly, Arthur's weren't unwelcome but the manner of them and the way he had been spoken to had been upsetting in the extreme.
He couldn't look at the man who had been like a father to him. Twisting his fingers and picking at his fingernails, Merlin tried to block out everything.
Gaius wouldn't allow it. Therefore, he listened as he was told of the potion, of the servants, and of the physician's suspicions.
The creak of a door stopped Arthur's pacing and brought up the heads of the two servants.
Only Gaius appeared but at once he addressed the Prince, "Sire, you may..." He gestured to the inner chambers where Merlin resided. He then went to his desk to arrange vials and opened a book no longer attentive to Arthur.
Arthur didn't waste anymore time and headed to where he needed to be.
He closed the door slowly, quietly, uncertain of his welcome and shame filling his being. Arthur immediately registered the figure that stood by the small window, staring directly at him, arms crossed and pale faced.
The silence seemed painfully prolonged and Arthur couldn't think on how to begin or how to break the tension.
Then Merlin managed it.
"I forgive you."
Well the silence was broken but perhaps not the tension.
Their eyes locked and Arthur knew, he knew, that he should be over there now, doing something significant but...God...he didn't deserve to! His eyes were pleading if he'd but known as they gazed into those deep blue orbs, which continued to remain, fixed on Arthur.
"I've never seen you at a loss for words before, I'm a little unsure it's actually you," Merlin said, the words cheeky but in every way he exuded nervousness
Arthur tried to step forward but managed only a fraction of the distance between them. It felt further than it was.
A heartfelt sigh and then Merlin was there-in front of him, around him and on him.
"Gaius told me...I know it wasn't you and I also know that you..." He seemed to lose confidence because his face was now buried in Arthur's neck.
After standing stiffly for the initial impact Arthur's arms were now clenching around the fragile body, which had leeched onto him.
"How can you touch me or..." he whispered. Arthur was beyond relief but it couldn't be this simple?
Merlin pulled back and led him over to sit on the bed, which was the only available place to do so in the room. This spoke volumes to Arthur of the other man's trust.
"He told you that it was a potion called 'green haze,'?" he queried.
Merlin nodded then mumbled, "Like I said he told me everything but I need you to know that I know you wouldn't behave like that if it hadn't..."
Arthur had heard enough. It was essential that he speak and clear the air completely. It was times like these that this supposedly fragile man displayed the courage that he possessed in abundance but never got the credit for. This man had faced a dragon by his side and travelled into the unknown without protest. Now though he was surpassing a Prince as he faced their situation head on despite all of the awkwardness and unpleasantness of before. He, Arthur, had frozen in a state of abject fear.
Lifting a finger to the other man's lips, he began to speak. He spoke of his underlying panic as he'd verbally and physically abused Merlin and seen his distress. He spoke of his panic at his actions, but how the jealousy had overwhelmed him at the thought of Merlin with another man. How it still did. He took deep breaths and paused to think.
"It will take a long time before I can forgive myself but I want you to know that I would never willingly or knowingly harm a hair on your head." Arthur's voice broke as he felt emotion surge upward until he could barely swallow his chest felt so tight.
"Arthur, you've not taken the antidote yet have you." It wasn't a question. Merlin was watching him with a soft smile, obviously seeing the glint of green now, which he wouldn't have known to look for before.
The Prince frowned as he considered this and realised he'd not felt overpowered by jealousy since the occasion with Merlin in his chambers. (The only hiccup being his irritation at the servant girl's mention of Merlin but he'd managed to regain control without major incident.) After Merlin had fled, he'd sat staring at nothing, then in a panic he'd realised fully what had happened and gone in search of Gaius. At the time, he'd not trusted himself near his servant and had been in agonies of guilt and confusion over what he'd done.
He realised what Merlin was saying-he was sitting here with only remorse and love in his heart (not that Merlin knew about the latter). This was despite not yet taking the antidote to a potion, which was meant to overpower your emotions until a terrible jealousy took over. Arthur hoped this meant that his love for Merlin was pure enough to overcome the potion. That their love was strong enough to help them retain a hold of sorts on its effects. He supposed if any good had come from the potion it was his realisation of how much Merlin meant to him and that he was now actively pursuing a relationship with him. Another realisation hit home. For Merlin to sit here with him alone then...
"You trust me," Arthur stated bluntly, actually daring to believe.
"Actually you prat I believe I love you," Merlin retorted smartly.
A rap at the door signalled Gaius's entry and he handed a vial to Arthur with a pleased look as he observed their closeness.
"It should take effect within a matter of seconds Sire," Gaius said. "I'll just wait to ensure it works."
Arthur swallowed it quickly and put the vial down on a tabletop, which stood by the bed. He sat back down and waited apprehensively.
The physician stood over him, watching carefully for the green to fade. With a satisfied nod, he murmured that it was done and mentioned that he'd sent the young couple home early for the day.
When the door closed behind him and they were alone once more, Arthur felt embarrassment rush through him as he realised that it was past time he reveal his emotions after Merlin had done so, so bravely.
"You must know how I feel, he began, then...damn it Merlin I love you!" he exclaimed unsure why it was so difficult to express an emotion which seemed to come so naturally to the fore whenever he was around this man.
Merlin smiled. "You're really crap at this aren't you."
"I'm sorry, so..." Arthur stammered.
"Hush, it's over now and we can begin," Merlin smiled.
Arthur wanted to haul him close, eat him alive but the first move had to be Merlin's.
His hands flexed as he sat there without making a single approach.
"You clot, come here!"
Arthur grunted then sighed into the kiss, which Merlin was now deepening with great fervour.
"Ah...love...love you," he gasped as a tongue flicked against his own to send shocks of pleasure through him.
"That's it Arthur, want you, make me feel safe..." Merlin was mumbling incoherently.
The Prince felt both awed and humbled by this gift and holding Merlin carefully in his arms resolved to protect him and keep him until the day he died. He may have no longer been under the effects of a potion but he remained possessive, protective and proud of his love. He would protect this man with his life.
Merlin was in heaven. He knew it was rather quick to be here in Arthur's arms after the day he had endured but deep down he'd known Arthur would never seriously harm a hair on his head. Hearing the truth from Gaius had only further enhanced this belief. He needed this.
The arms around him protected and blocked out all memory of a certain Knight. He didn't want to think of him now, not when he was being held so lovingly. Arthur gently tipped his chin to gaze at him then peppered kisses over his face. Merlin felt his heart flip. They rested back on the bed and silently lay there, entwined, enjoying the moment.
Now was not the time to reveal what Durant had done, he could tell Arthur tomorrow when they had had their time. It would be a difficult conversation, as he would have to reveal why one of Arthur's Knights was now a statue of a toad-warts and all. He also knew that Arthur was not going to be happy at all.
Of course, it may have to come out just how the transformation had come about. Especially if they were going to start afresh. Yes, tomorrow would be eventful Merlin decided.
As a hand stroked through his hair and his eyes began to flutter shut, Merlin decided that it could wait.